As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I can relate to the likes of GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and DuckTales. An ambitious iOS title called Saturday Morning RPG was released, chock full of these references. I, unfortunately, was unable to play it due to my phone limitations. Luckily, developer Mighty Rabbit Studios has brought the game over to the PC. Now that I have spent some time with it, I’m so glad they decided to bring this gem of a nostalgia trip over.
Players take on the role of Marty, an average high school student that receives a special Trapper Keeper from a person known as “The Wizard”, who looks and acts an awful lot like Lucas from the movie The Wizard. He even has a Power Glove (it’s so bad.) This special three-ring binder allows Marty to use everyday objects as weapons. He’s going to need it because the evil Commander Hood (who looks a lot like Cobra Commander) along with other spoof villains from various 80’s cartoons are on the loose and only Marty can stop them.
SMRPG is a turn-based role playing game that features a rather unique battle system. Even before the battle begins, the player has a short period of time to scratch numerous Scratch-and-Sniff stickers they have placed on Marty’s Trapper Keeper. When fully scratched, they will offer up stat increases and debuffs for the enemies. During battle, the player chooses equipped items to use against said enemies.
Each item has a certain amount of uses, and Marty can decide to use a standard physical punch when out of items. Luckily, after the battle all the items the player used are recharged so they are never lost completely. Marty can also use mana to buff up his attacks. There are numerous ways to power up, and while charged up, his next attack will do more damage. Certain items and attack as well as charging up mana may require the player to do a quick time event. These are rather simple and are usually timing or input based. After battle, I was scored on how well I did and Marty received experience points that can go to new levels.
The game is played through episodes. As of right now, four of the episodes are available to play with a fifth episode coming soon free to download. Each one has a different setting with various characters to interact with. Aside form the main quest, each episode has side-quests to take on as well. These can offer up more experience points or new items and stickers to use in battle. There is also a special survival mode outside of the episodes that can be played. Here it is all about resource management and making sure every attack counts.
The presentation is what really drives the game. The constant 80’s references in both locales and in game play made me chuckle and smile. Some of Marty’s attacks include using Fruit Stripe Gum to have a stampede of colorful zebras ram the enemies, or using a “Transformers” action figure to turn Marty into an 18-wheeler and drive over numerous enemies. Things like this and the characters Marty runs into are all full of cartoon and movie references. The visuals are a mix of 3D backgrounds with 16-bit sprites. It fits the game perfectly.
Another exciting note is that the music was created by Vince DiCola and Kenny Meriedeth,the same guys that have worked on Rocky IV and Transformers: The Movie as well as DuckTales and Power Rangers. The music is the icing on the cake. It gives off this epic 80’s feel and the fanfare after a battle is, as my Editor-in-Chief would say, “awesome.”
Now, as fun and entertaining as SMRPG is, there are a couple issues I had. First, with the mana system in place and the use of powering up attacks; it feels like a tedious requirement for some battles. Certain times I felt like I would have to power up, attack, power up, attack for a very long time, and sometimes I would have to wait for Marty’s mana to recharge before I could even power up again. His mana recharges by blocking attacks. It made some of the battles drag on for a bit. Secondly, the visuals look nice for what they are trying to do, and I’m not taking away from that, but even on full screen in 1080p, it looked stretched and blurry at times. Of course, these are minor things that can be overlooked by just how charming the game is.
SMRPG features full controller support as well as customizable keyboard or mouse control. I played using the Xbox 360 controller throughout my play through and it worked perfectly. In fact, I would suggest using a gamepad of some sort for the quick time events.
Each episode takes around an hour to an hour and a half complete and with four episodes in all and another one on the way, this nice little experience can run you into the five to six hour mark depending on what all you choose to do. For $6, Saturday Morning RPG is a steal for anyone who grew up with 80’s cartoons. The references will keep you smiling and the interesting combat will keep you playing. I can’t suggest it enough.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.